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How do I deal with an intimidating work colleague?

How do I deal with an intimidating work colleague?
Learning how to handle a pushy, prickly work colleague or boss takes some effort but it is worthwhile and tremendously satisfying

A colleague at work challenges the comments of workers and the decisions of managers. She is nice on the surface but she talks herself up while undermining others and distorting what is said about her. Everyone gives her extra attention and reassurance to avoid her fight mode.

This woman has people at work just where she wants them, that is, running scared.

She’s prickly. She intimidates others to protect herself. She is so afraid and insecure, she needs to control her environment. Whether she is aware of it or not, she is playing a game. The game is ‘scare them to keep them at bay’. She has to push others away in order to feel safe.

Her strategy seems to be working. You and your workmates appear to be convinced that she is dangerous. You placate her in the hope you’ll keep her calm. Unwittingly, you are playing her game.

You are all so intimidated, you probably spend a lot of time talking about what she’s done and what she might so next. This also plays into her hand. Instead of getting on with your work, you waste time. Remember, she’ll use anything to undermine you. Failing to meet your targets or deadlines is ammunition for her. She’ll use it against you.

You are probably tired of this game and want to stop playing. To do this you need to eliminate your fear.

  • First, you need to ensure that she has got nothing on you. Do your work as competently and conscientiously as you can. That isn’t enough, however, if you doubt yourself.
  • But of course you doubt yourself. Everyone else in the office has self-doubts too. The game of intimidation that this woman is playing won’t work if her targets are self-assured and guilt-free.
  • A self-assured person will confront her. Any put-down, challenge or undermining comment will attract an immediate ‘are you putting me down?’ or words to that effect. It won’t be delivered with malice or anger. It will be delivered firmly, confidently and with a hint of curiosity.

Bullies are really cowards so confrontations of this sort will soon have this woman tiptoeing around the self-assured person.

How do you become self-assured so you too can put her in her place?

You need to identify all the fears that her behaviour evokes in you. What might happen to you if she did her worst? You really need to let your imagination run wild with this. Don’t insist on logical fears. Fears are not logical. Even if you imagine her chasing you around with an axe, go with it. Sometimes underlying fears have a subconscious connection to current reality.

Now confront your fear. Pretend it is real. feel all the emotions associated with this fear. Run it right through to the horrible end. Do this in a relaxed, calm state. If it is too uncomfortable, do it with a trusted friend. Your objective is to ‘pop’ the fear. In other words, to go with it in order to fully experience it, at the emotional level, as the illusion it is.

After confronting each fear, check to see if it still has any emotional charge. Do this by reimagining the scenario that scared you. You will know when all your fears have been put to rest because you’ll have no reaction. Keep doing this fear audit and release, and eventually you will have the strength to calmly and confidently confront her.

Having problems in your office? North Brisbane Psychologists can help. Book an appointment today!

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